When it’s too cold to appreciate Niagara, I really appreciate Niagara. That’s because there are so few other people “appreciating” along with me.
It was remarkable to be in the city of Niagara Falls, N.Y., the other day and be one of only a few dozen tourists wandering the streets. Normally they’re crammed shoulder to shoulder like the boardwalk at the Jersey shore or the beach at Monterey. Finding parking is Russian roulette with large moving objects. Trying to take a photo that doesn’t include a bunch of strangers is harder than going over the Falls in a barrel.
But today we could park anywhere we wanted. And our photos would be exactly what we wanted.
Of course, in November the weather is a bit brisk, but the day was clear if cloudy. My partner and I happen to be Niagara Falls aficionados, as anyone who has ever been to our house can tell you (we’re heavy on vintage Niagara Falls memorabilia as household decorations). We hadn’t been planning to stop at Niagara. We had limited ourselves to one chosen stop each, so we would make it across country in the time allotted; otherwise we’d be distracted by every roadside circus (“Wild West Village—Next Exit!”) and neither of us had chosen Niagara, going instead for places we hadn’t seen before.
But when our son changed his mind about his stop, it cut off a side trip we would have had to make that would have added a day easily to our trip. With this found time, we looked at each other and said, “Niagara!”
She had slightly better clothing against the cold than I did. She could put her hands in her pockets. I had to keep mine on the three-wheeled walker I was using to get around such situations. The wind was fierce enough along the streets and footpaths, but when we got out onto the observation deck, it combined with the force of the Falls to produce a swirl that swaddled us in a blur of mid-winter chill.
But then the sun came out. For a few minutes the clouds vanished, Niagara’s rainbows appeared, and it all seemed better.
November gives few moments like these. The clouds soon returned, and with them the snap of the wind. We scurried for cover in the Maid of the Mist gift shop (the boat trip itself having shut down for the season) where my hands came back to life and we freshened our latter-day Niagara memorabilia.
The whole side trip took only three hours, one of them at the Falls themselves, but it was as invigorating as an entire day at a health spa to me; to stand near that glorious mist that pours from the Falls as it flows ceaselessly, endlessly in a sound that is at once the loudest sound in the area and at the same time no sound at all; to be caught up by the sheer waves of crests of aquamarine water tumbling one after the next over the precipice, that precipice that Frederic Church caught so perfectly, the one I carry in my mind for an instant Niagara fix.
Well, that was quite a tortured sentence. A good place to stop.